Inside Llewyn Davis [Celluloid Hero]
Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
I have a (perhaps unhealthy) obsession with the musician lifestyle. The nomadic, vagabond, couch-surfing, traveling minstrel way of life intrigues me. Obviously I'm comfortable where I am, with a steady job and a roof over my head, but there were definitely times in my life where I felt like I could have given it all away and just drifted like a gypsy. The Coen Brothers both celebrate and impugn that life with "Inside Llewyn Davis."
Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac, whom I loved in Ex Machina and The Force Awakens) is a folk singer in Greenwich Village in the early 1960s. He lives a gypsy life, going onstage with just an acoustic guitar and his voice, crashing on the couch of friends (and enemies), hitching rides, and still hoping to make it big. He had been part of a folk duo, and the end of that has brought a heavy weight on him, musically and personally. He looks down on commercial artists, argues with jazz snobs, snaps at Upper West Side beatniks, and generally ruins everything he comes in contact with.
There isn't much of a plot, instead a series of moments in the span of about a week in Davis's life when he is weighing the options between quitting music or not. There is a driving motivation that moves the plot along, but as with many Coen Brothers movies, the beauty is in the characters. Oscar Isaac nails the faces of a person who is at the end of their rope. He knows he's good, and can't understand why no one else sees it. He also has the tendency to act like he's the smartest guy in the room, and isn't too subtle.
The movie had a distinct look, and I'm still wavering a bit on whether I enjoyed it or not. The entire thing felt as though it was filmed through an Instagram filter. The colors were muted, there was a bit of a haze or blur or aura around everything. I wasn't sure if it was an effect achieved with a certain lens or film or filter, or if it was digitally color-corrected (something the Coens did with "O Brother Where Art Thou?") but it made everything a bit warmer, more nostalgic, more vintage.
Obviously with a movie about the music scene, the soundtrack is a character itself. The Coens again joined up with T Bone Burnett, and again knocked it out of the park. Oscar Isaac performs his own vocals, and surprised me at how solid he is. The soundtrack is full of that early 60s Village vibe.
The Coens always manage to fill their movies with symbolism, some of which I get, some of which I don't, and some of which I think "I should have gotten that", and this time is no exception. They walk a great line where you can find meaning in just about anything, or just accept that it is what it is. All I know is that this movie made me appreciate my suburban middle class life, but also kept the gypsy fire burning. And I want an orange tabby.
On the [Celluloid Hero] scale, "Inside Llewyn Davis" gets an 8 out of 10.